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Wife of Man Shot by Police Fears Family May Suffer

Times Staff Writer

The wife of the man wounded in what Newport Beach police acknowledge was a mistaken police shooting said Monday that the hospitalization of her husband will cause severe financial trouble for their family of six.

“The Newport Beach Police Department took away my children’s father,” Marlene Bryant said Monday night, losing her composure for a moment as tears rolleddown her cheeks. “I’m being strong. I’m trying my hardest.”

Sundaga Bryant, 26, was shot once early Sunday morning by a Newport Beach police officer who mistook Bryant’s portable stereo for a shotgun, according to police accounts of the incident. Marlene Bryant said her husband may lose his arm because pellets from a police shotgun severed an artery. Hospital officials would not comment beyond saying that Bryant remained in critical condition.

Marlene Bryant, 30, spoke to reporters in the lobby of the Fountain Valley Regional Hospital & Medical Center as her husband rested upstairs in the intensive-care unit, recovering from 11 hours of surgery. The family is asking for financial help from the public, and their lawyer has set up a special bank account.

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Police had been called to the area near the Balboa Pier after receiving reports that a man was carrying a sawed-off shotgun, according to Bob Oakley, a police spokesman.

Shortly after Sundaga Bryant was shot, a 14-year-old youth was found nearby with a pellet gun similar to those used in simulated war games, police said. He was questioned and released.

Marlene Bryant and police offer differing accounts of events leading to the shooting. She said that police fired with no warning other than “drop it” and that she was not allowed to aid her husband as he lay bleeding on their blanket.

Police say that they warned Bryant to freeze but that he turned quickly around with the radio at his side.

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The police officer who fired the shot has since been placed in an administrative position and the incident is under investigation by the Orange County district attorney’s office, the city and the Police Department, all standard procedure in officer-involved shootings, Oakley said.

In any event, the family is facing hard times while her husband recuperates at the hospital for the next month, Marlene Bryant said.

Sundaga Bryant had just begun a new job with Orange County Yellow Cab driving shuttle buses in Anaheim and the family had saved very little from his previous job as a nurse’s aide, Bryant said.

Christian W. Keena, the Bryants’ attorney, set up an account with the First Interstate Bank in Mission Viejo for donors who want to aid the family. Donations can be sent to his office at 23072 Lake Center Drive, Suite 204, El Toro, Calif. 92630. Keena said it is too early to talk about any legal action.

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“Now we have a man lying in the ICU, shot . . . and a lady here with four children and no visible means of support,” Keena said.

The Liberian Community of Southern California, Orange County chapter, will hold a benefit Sept. 24 to raise money for the family, said Lansanah Kpaka, a vice president of the organization.

“We are all in this country for one another,” said Kpaka, godfather to the Bryants’ 11-week-old daughter. “He was my best friend.”

The Bryants, married in July, 1987, have four other children by previous marriages, Marlene Bryant said. A 6-year-old boy still lives in Liberia. The family lives in a three-bedroom home in Orange, she said. Sundaga Bryant immigrated to California from the West African country in 1985, his wife said.

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Although alert, her husband could not yet speak Monday evening and remained unaware how he ended up in the hospital, Marlene Bryant said.

“I’m just grateful he’s alive,” she said.


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